Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month (TAAM) begins today (September 1, 2022) all across the state of Tennessee. The overall TAAM celebration is sponsored each year by the excellent and venerable Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology (TCPA), but numerous other governmental and private sector entities join in each September with their own special programmatic contributions to the overall celebration.
The annual 30 Days of Archaeology Blogfest is still being held as part of the 2022 TAAM celebration. Each day in September, a professional archaeologist, archaeology student, museum worker, or guest author writes a major blogpost summarizing one of their archaeological projects or highlighting some special archaeological or museological subject of interest. The blogposts are almost always fun and interesting to the maximum, and they are usually accompanied with maps, photographs, and/or video clips. You may click on the following safe link each of the 30 days in September 2022 to read the blogpost for that day:
The first blogpost will be available today, and a new blogpost will be available each day for the next 30 days. Once posted, all of the blogposts remain permanently available to the public on the TCPA website. Information relevant to each blogpost is usually posted on the TCPA Meta/Facebook page, and people can post comments on each blogpost there. You may click on the following safe link to go there:
Another friend of mine from the old days of Tennessee archaeology—-Dr. C. Clifford Boyd —–has died. His death occurred on March 9, 2021 after a long battle with cancer. The Archaeology in Tennessee blog and I would like to express our deepest love and condolences to Cliff’s surviving wife (Dr. Donna C. Boyd), the rest of his family members, and his many friends and acquaintances.
My last personal interaction with Cliff was a friendly e-mail exchange and a telephone call with him about one of our old friends who worked on the Tellico Archaeology Project in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At that time, much to my shock, Cliff was hospitalized with a very bad case of shingles. We chatted a bit about that because I too suffered from a milder, but still excruciating, case of shingles way back in 2011. Despite being so sick, Cliff was in an amazingly good mood, and I no doubt offered him my classic piece of humor about shingles:
Well, Cliff. You can at least be thankful it was not a case of vinyl siding.
If he had cancer at that time, best I can recall, he did not mention it to me. This is one reason I was so surprised and shocked to hear about his death. Unfortunately, I did not hear anything about his death until just a few days ago.
I do not measure American archaeologists and physical anthropologists by the bloat of their curriculum vitae or the lengths of their publication lists. Rather, I measure them by the content of their personal character—–meaning how genuine, truthful, kind, loving, compassionate, and supportive they are with the many people they encounter as they pass through this life on planet Earth. Cliff may have been short in physical stature, but he was a true giant as a human being who kindly loved and cared for his fellow human beings. I will always remember him for that alone, although his archaeological accomplishments in Tennessee and Virginia were formidable. The same can be truthfully said of Donna Boyd. In all of my life, I have never known two anthropologists of better personal character.
You may read a lengthy and detailed obituary for Dr. Cliff Boyd by clicking on the following safe link and scrolling down when you get there:
Why are so many people—–all over the world—–so anxious and hankering to know when American Indians quit—–I repeat——quit—–making chipped stone arrowheads? Is this some sort of quest K-12 school teachers dream up as an exercise for their students?
Please. Just click on the reply button and give me some answers in a comment. Thanks!!!
Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month (TAAM) begins tomorrow (September 1, 2021) all across the state of Tennessee. The overall TAAM celebration is sponsored each year by the excellent and venerable Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology (TCPA), but numerous other governmental and private sector entities join in each September with their own special programmatic contributions to the overall celebration.
Last year at this time, the public health threat posed by the COVID-19 virus either closed down or put a significant damper on some of the open-to-the-public, face-to-face festivities usually associated with this annual celebration of Tennessee archaeology. As most of you already know, the COVID 19 Delta Variant is eating Tennessee and the rest of the southeastern United States alive right now. Unfortunately, I have not read or heard anything about how this new viral variant has affected the scheduling of the face-to-face aspects of this year’s TAAM celebration. The COVID-19 Delta Variant is primarily sickening people who are not fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus and people who refuse to wear excellent-quality face masks (e.g., KN-95). If you have been fully vaccinated, do not have suppressed immunity, do not have multiple comorbidities, and wear a KN-95 face mask, you are probably good to go for attending any face-to-face indoors or outdoors archaeological activity that does not involve taking off your KN-95 face mask to eat food or slurp a beverage. However, if you are not fully vaccinated and refuse to wear a face mask, please keep your sorry ass at home. Yes—–there was judgement in that last sentence because people like you are dangerous to both yourself and your fellow man and woman.
The annual 30 Days of Archaeology Blogfest is still being held as part of the 2021 TAAM celebration. Each day in September, a professional archaeologist, archaeology student, museum worker, or guest author writes a major blogpost summarizing one of their archaeological projects or highlighting some special archaeological or museological subject of interest. The blogposts are almost always fun and interesting to the maximum, and they are usually accompanied with maps, photographs, and/or video clips. You may click on the following safe link each of the 30 days in September 2021 to read the blogpost for that day:
The first blogpost will be available tomorrow, and a new blogpost will be available each day for the next 30 days. Once posted, all of the blogposts remain permanently available to the public on the TCPA website. Information relevant to each blogpost is usually posted on the TCPA Facebook page, and people can post comments on each blogpost there. You may click on the following safe link to go there:
Artifact collectors sometimes ask professional archaeologists various questions. In many instances, they receive either no answer at all, or they receive a terse answer that is vague and hard to understand. I have never been an artifact collector. However, I grew up with artifact collectors in my life and later became a professional archaeologist. Therefore, I know both sides of the fence really well and feel sufficiently able to answer most of the questions artifact collectors might ask—or at least offer my own personal opinion.
Just like the so-called “half-breed” (half white man and half Native American) in the 19th century American West, I do not feel totally at home in the artifact collector world or in the professional archaeology world—and frequently feel some degree of rejection by both sides. What does that look like?
I am the only professional archaeologist who has been officially kicked off for life from both the Arrowheadology.com website and the Arrowheads.com website. In both places, I learned quickly that the artifact collectors there were Superman and I was kryptonite. They claimed I did not play well in their sandbox. However, I think having a professional archaeologist hanging around just made some of them feel really angry and uneasy. I now wear both rejections as a badge of highest honor.
My first professional archaeology rejection came about one year after graduating from high school. It occurred in early June of 1972 at a time when I was trying hard to figure out what my university major would be and what kind of career I would like to pursue. I tried very nicely and politely to talk face-to-face with a Nashville area professional archaeologist about forging a future career in American archaeology. (Every young person making a life-changing decision likes to get tips from a pro.) Although we had never met previously and did not know each other at all, this archaeologist proceeded to treat me—just a teenage kid—like the worst pond scum that had ever lived. The cynicism, gruff treatment, and humiliation that were dished out to me angrily inside just three minutes are something I will never forget as long as I live.
That sting was incredibly painful, and it went very deep. I was to later learn through true stories from my close friends (both archaeologists and nonarchaeologists who knew archaeologists) and from my own personal experience that the realm of professional archaeology in the United States is home base for numerous difficult, toxic, mean-spirited people with nasty personalities and unkind personal dispositions——far more so than in any of the other professional disciplines in which I have worked over the past 45 years. This is why I have never been particularly fond of many other professional archaeologists (but not all) and why I almost never choose to hang out socially with most other archaeologists (but not all).
The new series here at the Archaeology in Tennessee blog is called Questions Artifact Collectors Pose to Professional Archaeologists. Each question in the series is numbered sequentially——beginning with Question No. 1 today. I sometimes must answer questions generally when there are actually many exceptions and subtle nuances that would take a whole day of writing to capture. Unfortunately, I do not have that kind of time.
Furthermore, I strongly suspect some artifact collectors and professional archaeologists will not wholly like or approve of some of my answers and opinions for various reasons—and will detect a bit of snark that is present in some of my answers. When you see that bit of snark, please remember that both sides pissed me off many years ago. Just consider it to be your side’s bad attitude reflected straight back onto you by the mirror of my writing.
I am sure some artifact collectors will object to what I write in some of my answers and how I portray artifact collector thoughts and attitudes. I would just like to remind you once again that I grew up with artifact collectors all around me, and I know the collector world very well. You will not be reading anything I have not observed personally or read about in the collector world over the past 45 years. You may say:
Well, I am nothing like that, and I don’t think that way or have that attitude—or misperception.
True. Exceptions do exist. In such cases, just be aware that I am not writing about you personally. However, I am writing about the many other artifact collectors who do think that way, do talk that way, and do have such attitudes and misperceptions. Please also try to remember that I am not very happy with the attitudes and behaviors of numerous professional archaeologists. Therefore, it all balances out (more or less) after all is said and done.
Now, let us begin by answering Question No. 1. This is a question I have heard and read in various versions from numerous artifact collectors over the past 30 years. Here is the question:
Question No. 1: Why don’t you professional archaeologists and museum directors pull out all of those great artifacts you have stored away in those hundreds or thousands of rectangular cardboard boxes on those ceiling-high steel shelves——and display them all so the American public can file through and see them?
Many artifact collectors just assume that professional archaeologists are exactly like them in one very important respect. They think American archaeologists and the discipline of archaeology itself are all about locating and digging up fantastic artifacts of high monetary value. In their minds, they believe finding wonderful, museum-grade artifacts is the most important thing professional archaeologists do——-above all else. Because archaeologists have such great educations in archaeology, they must surely know all the right places to excavate first on an archaeological site so they will be certain to find and lay first claim to the very best museum-grade artifacts. In other words, they think American archaeology is all about getting the very best artifacts and getting to an archaeological site first to grab’em before anyone else can.
While that might look right in the context of an Indiana Jones movie, it is actually not right at all. Indiana Jones movies present a highly distorted and downright wrong view of what professional archaeologists do, how they do it, and why they do it. If you harbor the notion that you know a whole lot about archaeologists and American archaeology from watching Indiana Jones movies or watching “digger shows” on The Discovery Channel, you need to throw away everything you think you know about archaeologists and American archaeology——and start all over again from scratch.
Many artifact collectors think American archaeology is nothing but a “big artifact hunting game” professional archaeologists play. Moreover, archaeologists are so good at this game because their archaeology education in college consisted primarily of many in-classroom hours devoted to nothing else but teaching students where the best artifacts are located on sites, how to find the really great and most valuable artifacts first, and how to dig very carefully—so no artifact will get broken, which would reduce its monetary value. Their opponent in this huge game is the artifact dealer or collector, and whoever gets to an archaeological site first and grabs the largest number of high-quality artifacts wins the game. Right?
WRONG!!! DEAD WRONG!!!!
All those hundreds or thousands of rectangular cardboard boxes on ceiling-high steel shelves in anthropology department basements and huge museum storage rooms are not chocked full—almost to bursting—with eye-popping artifacts that would blow your socks off and make any artifact collector salivate with insatiable hunger. Truth is—if I were to show you what is really inside most of those hundreds or thousands of rectangular cardboard boxes on the ceiling-high steel shelves, the first words out of your artifact collector mouths would be:
You’ve got to be kidding!!! Y’all find all this small crap—and actually keep it!!! You take the time to write little letters and numbers on every chert chip and sherd? This is crazy!!! We thought all those rectangular boxes were stuffed full to bursting with fantastic artifacts! Boy, were we ever wrong!
ATTENTION ARTIFACT COLLECTORS!!! ALL POINTS BULLETIN!!!
I want you artifact collectors out there—especially the novice collectors and those with hard-to-penetrate heads—to get this inside your brain cells—and never forget it—never ever forget it. Please? This is going to sound harsh, and it might hurt your feelings. It is not my intent to hurt your feelings. I am expressing this like a U.S. Marine Corps drill sergeant so you will never forget the main factual points I am about to make. Ready?
Professional archaeologists are not just like you, and you are not just like professional archaeologists. American archaeology is not at all a big game about who gets to the fantastic artifacts first—and grabs’em to take home. We do not excavate archaeological sites in order to find the best quality, most fantastic, highly wonderful, blow-your-socks-off, museum-grade artifacts. We do not. Only artifact collectors do that. Only artifact collectors do that. Only artifact collectors do that. Got it?…………. Got it?…………………..Got it? …………………Good.
Professional archaeologists excavate archaeological sites to answer research questions that were laid out in a formal research design. They perform archaeological excavations to obtain information and data pertinent to answering those questions about the prehistoric and historic human past. Now, repeat after me: “Information and data.” One more time: “Information and data.” One more time: “Information and data.” Got it?…..Got it?…….Got it?…..Good.
Artifact Collector Interlude
Artifact Collector: You archaeologists ain’t in it for the really big artifacts? I jist don’t understand that. I always looked at it kinda like this.
The university anthropology department’s archaeologist and helpers go out to the archaeological site. Because the archaeologist is real educated in archaeology, he knows the right places to dig first to find the blow-your-socks-off artifacts quicker than anyone else. Him and his helpers then starts a diggin’, and they find 15 really great artifacts right off the bat. They are worth $10,000 each. They take’m back to their lab, clean’m up real careful-like so they don’t git broke (cause broke artifacts ain’t worth nothin’), and then they sell them artifacts to a big museum for $150,000—and that hard cash keeps the anthropology department a goin’. You know: salaries, legal pads, paper clips, and the like. You seem to be a tellin’ me that American archaeology ain’t nothin’ like that at all?
And what is this “information and data” stuff? I don’t understand that. How do you dig information and data out of the ground? Do you mean to tell me you can put a shovel in the ground and pull up the number “3” in your shovel? That jist screws my head up sumpm’ awful.
Archaeologist: Correct. I am telling you American archaeology is not anything even remotely like what you are thinking it is. The information and data part is harder to explain, and I will do that for you in another blog post. So, for now, we go back to the subject of artifacts curated (permanently stored) in rectangular cardboard boxes.
Yes, we professional archaeologists excavate for information and data—not blow-your-socks-off artifacts. We excavate for information and data—and keep whatever tangible artifacts we happen to encounter along the way—also for information and data purposes. Most of it is small artifact crap you would never even dream of bringing inside the back door of your house and mounting in a picture frame to hang on your den wall.
Most of those rectangular cardboard boxes you may have seen stacked high to the ceiling in museums and departments of anthropology contain millions of pieces of chert flaking debris (cores, flat flakes, decortication flakes, shatter material, bifacial thinning flakes, etc. and some unbroken and badly broken unifacial and bifacial tools). Those boxes also contain millions of pottery sherds——most of them small sherds. They also contain lots of broken animal bone and some shell that was slightly worked (or most often) never worked—and all sorts of other small crap. Occasionally, one of those boxes might contain a few complete but rather average pp/k’s or other complete stone tools—or none at all. You might even find a small pot, an elbow pipe, or some other decent artifacts in some boxes—but they are often few and far between. Some of those boxes contain charred bits of plant remains. Other boxes contain human bones that range from a few bits of surviving bone from one ancient human burial all the way up to a complete human skeleton from another burial—just human bones—no artifacts in those bone boxes.
About the only thing we usually do not save permanently is firecracked rock from prehistoric fire pits. We find a lot of it. It gets weighed in the lab (in kilograms), and it is then thrown into the nearest dumpster outside the lab. There is too much of it, and it is way too heavy to safely store—and not all that useful in terms of providing important information and data.
Yes, we do process and analyze all of the foregoing small crap artifacts, which would be worthless to you, in our archaeology laboratories. Doing it is so utterly boring it will quite literally numb a human brain. If you have ever written tiny trinomial site numbers and catalogue data on thousands of chert flakes and small pottery sherds, you know what it is like. (Been there. Done that.) I have been brain-numb for weeks or months on end as a direct result of it. I have packed those rectangular boxes for final curation storage——-and know what is in most of them.
Please allow me to close with a friendly warning. Personally, I like most friendly artifact collectors—–but not all of them. I know most artifact collectors are honest people who never intentionally commit crimes. However, if the few worst people among you have ever gotten together over a beer on a Friday night and hatched a plan to break into a department of anthropology basement or museum storage room to steal several hundred of those tantalizing rectangular cardboard boxes, I would strongly advise against it. When you truck off with all those boxes and you start opening them up like gifts on Christmas morning, you are in for one hell of a huge disappointment. If the cops nab you, and they probably will, you will do a lot of lamentation, mumbling, and crying about the tons of chert chips and small pottery sherds (with little numbers written on them) as they drag you in handcuffs to the back seat of the squad car. Just think about all that danger and effort for all those little chert flakes and small pottery sherds you would never dream of picking up while surface hunting in a plowed field. Believe me. It is just not worth it!!!
Now Bubba? Do you understand about the hundreds or thousands of rectangular cardboard boxes on the ceiling-high steel shelves—and all the small crap artifacts inside most of them? There is no way the American public would want to file through a museum and see the small crap artifacts that fill most of those rectangular boxes. Do you understand? I can’t hear you! Do you understand? If not, maybe Lady Gaga can help you out:
You may read even deeper by taking a close look at the recent archaeological write-up in the journal Nature. If you do not have an on-line subscription to this famous scientific journal, you will need to go to the periodicals room of a large university library to find and read this particular issue. Most of the state university and large private university libraries in Tennessee should have a copy.
I really enjoy hearing from the folks who visit and do reading on the Archaeology in Tennessee blog and the website for the Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute——for the most part. At both locations, readers have the option of making comments, which register themselves at the ends of particular blog articles or website pages. In addition, any person may click on the Contact Button at the top of any blog page or website page and use the e-mail address there to send a personal e-mail message to me. Sometimes, I will ask a person to contact me at my personal home e-mail address rather than at my work addresses. However, there are a couple of things I do not love—-very irritating things—–and you need to know about them.
(1) One reader left a comment at the end of the Regions of Focus page on the website for the Oak Ridge Archaeological Research Institute. I am not going to use his real name or handle name here, so I will just call him “Billy.” Here is his verbatim comment, which includes the original typographical errors:
Can you tie any specific Woodland or Mississippian cultures to Anderson County? I’m aware of the Owl Hollow and McFarland cultures that presumably built Old Stone Fort and on a larger scale, the Adena, Hopewell, and Fort Ancient cultures. I also have learned about the Mississippian Dallas Phase Chiaha Chiefdom, Omalico… ect… but I can’t find any documentation on any specific cultures in Anderson County. Any ideas would be appreciated.
That was a nice question, a reasonably knowledgeable question (not that it had to be), and one that I could answer to a certain extent—–with some important nuances that deserved discussion. I preferred to respond privately by e-mail rather than risk a long response that might overrun any WordPress character limitations on the length of comment responses. I also wanted to ask Billy a few private questions. Here is the comment message I sent to Billy in response the next day:
Hi Billy. Thanks for commenting. Please send me an e-mail message at the following address so we can exchange a few messages and discuss this in more detail:
[My personal home e-mail address was listed here.]
Thanks!!! Have a wonderful day!!!
Six days passed, and I did not hear a word from Billy. Some people are shy and skittish about communicating with archaeologists, so I sent another nice comment to Billy:
What is the problem Billy? Send me an e-mail message. I am a really nice person, and I don’t bite. Answering your request here in the comments is not as simple and straightforward as you might think for a variety of reasons involving nuances and holes in Woodland and Mississippian research for Anderson County. I will be looking forward to hearing from you.
Months have now passed. I have not heard a word from Billy at my home e-mail address or anywhere else——and suspect that I never will.
Please dear readers. If you indicate you want to communicate with me in a comment or by e-mail, then please do it. Follow through!!! Please do not leave me hanging out here on the edge of a cliff waiting forever to hear back from you, especially if I have spent my personal time doing some extra research on your behalf. It is really irritating—-and if you irritate me like this for months on end——-like Billy did——I may not respond at all if you finally do get in touch with me.
(2) Please do not send me any blog comments or e-mail messages that are designed (cleverly or not so cleverly) to trick me into revealing to you the specific locations of intact archaeological sites so you (or you and your buddies) can go loot them for artifacts. As a matter of personal and professional policy, I do not give out the specific locations of intact archaeological sites to anyone who is not a fellow professional archaeologist or a deeply trusted avocational archaeologist who does not dig for artifacts. Purely for archaeological purposes, I and other professional archaeologists will sometimes (on a need to know basis) reveal a site location to a deeply trusted avocational archaeologist such as John Dowd or the late H.C. “Buddy” Brehm because we know them well and they share concretely in our professional archaeological ethics. Anyone else:
Rubber biscuit: You go hungry—–bawe, bawe, bawe!!!
Most other professional archaeologists abide by the same policy to prevent the looting of archaeological sites.
We professional archaeologists have seen or anticipated just about every minor trick and complicated ruse in the book, across many years, when it comes to strangers who want to know the specific locations of archaeological sites. I and all other professional archaeologists are always on hyper-alert for any aspect of communication with us that even remotely smacks of a desire to know intact archaeological site locations—and we are especially suspicious of strangers—-meaning people we do not already know. By intact, I mean existing archaeological sites that still have fully intact or partially intact archaeological deposits that need to be preserved.
If you are a stranger and you contact any professional archaeologist with any sort of suspicious-sounding messages or questions, you may not receive any response at all. If you sound suspicious, some professional archaeologists will just flat-out stonewall you——and never respond. Academic archaeologists at colleges and universities are often so busy that they only respond to inquiries from their students and a few other professional archaeologists they already know. Numerous professors receive hundreds of e-mail messages per day. They cannot respond to all of them every day. It is just impossible to do it. Sadly, a handful of professional archaeologists will not respond to inquiries from the public (or even other professional archaeologists) because of personal ego problems that keep them from interacting with people they wrongly regard as mere “stinkards” in this world. (Check the Natchez historical accounts). You know how it goes:
Ah-ah-ah!!! Do not expect any response from me. I am a truly important archaeologist. I am famous. I am too good to interact with you and other people like you. Please. Do not contact me. Do not touch my Holy body. I have not yet ascended into Heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father.
Many professional archaeologists will just automatically assume that any stranger who contacts them is an artifact collector or artifact dealer minion who is acting under cover and up to no good. (Been there. Seen that.) In fact, such professional archaeologists often make the knee-jerk assumption that a looter has just contacted them and quickly fire an insulting message straight back to the person who contacted them. (Been there. Seen that one too.) Sometimes that stranger turns out to be a totally innocent person or a professional archaeologist they have never met (Uh-oh!!! Pie on the face——Three Stooges style).
Personally, I do not like professional archaeologists who make a priori negative assumptions about the strangers who contact them—-and then automatically fire back insulting messages at them. As a matter of policy, I try not to make such assumptions about other people because they can easily be wrong.
Instead, I first seek further information from any stranger who has contacted me. I nicely ask deep and incisive questions of that person. Based on the answers received, I carefully call around and otherwise check out the person and his background to see if he is a safe person or some bad actor who is likely up to no good. You would be surprised at how easy it is to find the real goods on a person just by making a few telephone calls, sending out a few e-mail messages to the right people, or investigating people on-line (either through pay people search services or just personal investigation on the Internet). If a stranger contacts me, but refuses to answer my deep and incisive questions, that person is not going to get very far with me on anything. They will certainly not get any archaeological site locations.
But hey. I am a nice and friendly kind of guy, and I really do enjoy hearing from my readers. Really!!! All I kindly ask is for you to be polite when you contact me, be straight-up with me in your message, and avoid ulterior motives——such as wanting to know the specific locations of intact archaeological sites. Have a happy day!!!!
Uh-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h-h? Okay. The title of this brief blog article was a question submitted to me by a visitor to the Archaeology in Tennessee blog. Without getting into the famous terminological argument of flint vs. chert, the first flint (as you call it) arrived in Tennessee through purely natural geological processes many, many, many, many millions of years before the first American Indian (or Native American) arrived in Tennessee circa 11,000 B.C. (13,000 years ago).
Anything older than about 13,000 years ago crosses the line into a debate that began in the middle of the 20th century. When this debate began, it was called the Early Arrival Hypothesis vs. the Late Arrival Hypothesis. I have no idea what the Paleo-Indian archaeologists call that debate now—about 70 years later. However, the approximate 11,000 B.C. date (or thereabouts) is the earliest first arrival date that is definitively known for Tennessee. The actual earliest arrival date for Tennessee is still an open question with no firmly decided upon answer. My heart has always been with the Early Arrival Hypothesis, but the hard evidence for it—at least in my mind—has been a bit sparse, threadbare, and questionable to one degree or another.
I guess you can tell that Paleo-Indian archaeology in Tennessee or anywhere else is not one of my favorite subjects that I spend a lot of personal time studying or pondering. If anyone has more up-to-date Paleo-Indian information for Tennessee, please provide it in the comments.
Yesterday afternoon, I received an e-mail message containing a bit of shocking news from a fellow archaeologist. He was passing on a message from an old friend of ours, Dr. Tony Cavender, who is an Emeritus Professor of Cultural Anthropology at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee. The William M. Bass III Collection of Native American human skeletal remains, which has been housed by the Department of Anthropology at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) for the past 50 years, is leaving for the Northern High Plains in Spring 2020.
Two Native American tribes (Arikara and Mandan) will be happy to receive and rebury the skeletal remains of their ancestors. I understand why this needs to happen. However, strictly from a general scientific standpoint and my personal scientific viewpoint, it is kind of sad to see them go.
It was one of the largest Native American skeletal collections in the United States, and this collection was a tremendous nationally and internationally recognized scientific resource. Thousands of undergraduate and graduate students in physical anthropology and American archaeology cut their baby teeth in anthropological learning via this wonderful collection. Dr. Bass used elements of it to teach me and many other archaeology students the fine art of identifying and siding human skeletal remains—particularly badly fragmented remains. In addition, we learned how to determine age at time of death, sex, and stature. We also learned how to identify paleopathological lesions and how to perform standard anthropometric measurements on crania and other complete bones in this collection.
I would also like to add the fact—and it is a fact—that Dr. Bass (a.k.a. Dr. Death) taught us to always treat these Native American remains with gentleness and respect because the bones of each person represented the ancient loved ones of our Native American friends and neighbors. In other words, each set of human skeletal remains represented a flesh and blood person who was deeply loved and cared for by the members of their families and tribes. Long ago, tears and heartfelt human grief were associated with the death and burial of each person.
Therefore, no weird college student horseplay or careless shenanigans were ever allowed or tolerated with the elements of this skeletal collection or any other human skeletal collections in the Department of Anthropology at UTK or at the on-campus Frank H. McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture. Any shenanigans, horseplay, or failures of respect with these collections would have incurred a certain student death sentence from Dr. Death——all students understood that——and they also understood that no college student on Earth had ever tasted true death until they had experienced it at the hands of Dr. Death. Needless to say, the collections remained safe, and no students died. Dr. Bass made sure the skeletal collections at UTK were appropriately curated and cared for at all times.
You may read a short news article from the Cable News Network (CNN) about the impending departure of the William M. Bass III Collection from UTK. Please click on the following safe link:
We get numerous visitors and views at the Archaeology in Tennessee blog each day of the year. However, I have noticed that very few visitors ever read our 13 blog articles (thus far—and more to come) in our ongoing series of articles entitled Questions Artifact Collectors Pose to Professional Archaeologists. Over my past six decades, most artifact collectors and other citizens I have ever known hope for an opportunity to pose a few questions to professional archaeologists, and they hope even more to obtain a longer and better answer than what they often get. I had hoped this series of blog articles would answer some of the common questions artifact collectors and ordinary citizens on the street often ask. Perhaps you found it hard to navigate from one question to another on this blog. If that was so, I kindly apologize and have a solution to the problem.
It occurred to me that I could make such navigation much easier for you by creating a list of the questions, stating the main subject matter of each question, and leaving you the proper hyperlinks to click on——and go immediately to whichever questions interest you. I have done that for you in the list below. Have fun—and if you think of any new questions you would like to ask, you may click on the Leave a Reply button to the left under the title of each blog article and leave a comment containing your question. You may also send a question to me by e-mail. Just click on the Contact Button at the tops of our blog pages. Here is the list of questions and the safe hyperlinks to click:
“We Artifact Collectors are Better Quality Human Beings Than You Archaeologists: You Archaeologists Hide Most of Your Great Artifacts from the Public—but We Artifact Collectors Put our Artifacts on Display for the Public to File Through and View. Nya-Nya-Nya-Nya…..Nya.”